EARBUDS are probably the most important gaming accessory you can get for a mobile phone or tablet.
It’s just bad manners to make everyone else on the train listen to you playing World of Tanks or whatever you’ve found on Apple Arcade or Xbox Streaming that takes ytour fancy, after all,
There’s a range of phone-compatible audio options on the market, ranging from random eBay stuff to Apple AirPods to incredibly high-end gear for the true audiophile.
For most of us, however, we want something in that combines good audio with affordability and functionality, and there’s plenty of choices in that space – including the subject of this review.
The Belkin Soundform Freedom True Wireless Earbuds & 10w Wireless Charging Pad Bundle is – wait for it – a bundle combining the wireless earbuds and a 10w Qi/Magsafe-compatible wireless charging pad, with an RRP of AUD$199.
They come in a clamshell storage container (which also provides recharging), and the case itself is compatible with Qi or Magsafe wireless chargers. Being Bluetooth based, they will work with both Apple and Android devices, but the better experience comes from Apple due to their “Find My” compatibility (more on that in a bit).
The Soundform Freedom’s in-bud batteries run for about eight hours, and you’ve got another 28 in the case, for a total of 36. There are three silicon earpieces (S/M/L size) included, and I found the Soundfrom Freedoms comfortable to wear. They’re IPX4 rated, which covers sweat and accidentally getting rained on, but I’m not sure I’d want to use them as a dedicated gym headset. You won’t have any issues with them for exercises like walking, jogging or doing Yoga/Tai Chi etc, however.
Of course the major element of earbud reviews is how they sound, and the Belkin Soundform Freedoms deliver a solid, reliable and cromulent audio experience for the most part.
The sound is very clear and distortion-free, but still not quite as bass-y as I’d like (which is a me thing, since I like my bass phat). They worked well for gaming, calls, and streaming content (including the Cowboy Bebop reboot which, let the record show, I actually enjoyed) and were easy to use; operation was the same as most similar products.
They have something called Advanced Environmental Noise Cancellation, which is designed to filter out background noise in phone calls and chat – it worked fairly well, although I wasn’t on the phone at a construction site or anywhere unusually noisy, either.
The units don’t have Active Noise Cancelling, which is a missed opportunity, but I didn’t have any issues with external noise interfering with my enjoyment of my gaming or viewing sessions so it’s not a dealbreaker at all, especially considering the price point and bundled charger.
Setting the Soundform Freedoms up was easy – activate Bluetooth on my phone, open the case, they searched and paired, and away I went.
There are the usual on-bud controls for playback, taking calls etc but they also have another neat feature – if you take them out of your ears, they automatically pause the playback (at least on iPhone and iPad). This is incredibly useful, if, like me, you have kids or a spouse who persist in trying to talk at you when gaming or at a good part in whatever you’re watching, so having it pause while you take your earbuds out to talk to your family like a civilised person is a nice touch indeed.
The big attraction with the Soundform Freedoms – beyond their sound quality and ease of use – is compatibility with the Apple “Find My” feature.
To the best of my knowledge these are the first third-party earbuds to use the feature, and I found it was straightforward to set up and worked exactly the way you’d expect – you ask the app to play a sound, the case starts beeping, and then you find the cat is sitting on it or it’s fallen down between the sofa cushions and recover it.
What really sweetens the deal for an already worthwhile purchase is the bundled 10w Magsafe/Qi wireless charging pad, which can charge the earbuds (in their case) as well as a smartphone.
The 10W wireless charging pad included in the bundle also works exactly as you’d expect – plug it in (the power adaptor is included), put your phone and/or the Soundform Freedom Earbuds case (or any other compatible wireless charging case, for that matter) on it, and then your device will charge. It’ll work with phone cases up to 3mm thick, including the official Apple one too (I tested it with an iPhone 13 and it worked perfectly).
Ultimately, for the money, this is a great bundle and an ideal accompaniment to smart device gaming or content viewing – especially if you’re invested in the Apple ecosystem.